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Fifth Hitch on the Gila

Fifth Hitch on the Gila

-Riley Bates

This was my fifth hitch with AZCC crew 113. I feel that I have hit stride and that this hitch went really smoothly and flew by. We are working in coordination with GWP (the Gila Watershed Partnership) to rid the Gila valley of Tamarisk trees, which will help out native species and the local agriculture economy.

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We worked in a pretty thick stand at our worksite R3, which involved a much more detailed falling plan and safety evaluation than any of us had previously encountered. An excellent time was had working closely with crew mates to carry out our saw goals safely and efficiently. 

Aside from project work, it was an exciting hitch because we got the opportunity to attend a community event at the Eastern Arizona College campus at the Discovery Park in Safford, Arizona. During our time in the field we have been lucky enough to camp in the nature reserve at Discovery Park, and had spent the season so far seeing the space observatory and campus buildings from afar, and so our curiosity to explore them further was piqued.

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Saturday evening after work we arrived at the Park entry way and were blown away at the number of cars in the lot and the buzz of activity heard from the campus. It was great to see so many of the residents and children from the local community out at this educational event, and the excitement for the activity stations and learning opportunities was palpable. Among the many stations were high powered outdoor telescopes, miniature rocket launchers, an electronic vegetable keyboard piano experiment and the Safford High School Jazz Band performing with sunset over Mount Graham in the background. As a crew we visited many of the stations and activities, of which a highlight was touring the campus museum featuring the history of settlement in the Gila valley and an explanation of astronomy and the activities going on in the observatory on campus and elsewhere in Arizona. We enjoyed barbecued burgers and dogs, which had proceeds benefiting a local safe house and clean living program. As evening came on the Jazz Band performed and events moved more to the indoor exhibits. We were all very excited for the space shuttle simulator, which we had heard much about, and an opportunity to look through the observatory telescope. A highlight for me was getting a chance at the telescope and getting to see the Orion nebula and a mountain range on the moon, while an astronomer from the college explained what we were seeing, how the telescope works, and the projects they have going on at the observatory. Though, the real take-away from the evening was interacting with some of the community and discussing the Conservation Corps and our work in the valley. It was truly gratifying and put extra meaning to the work we do on a daily basis to see how appreciative they were about our efforts to aid the local environment and also to hear their take on the Tamarisk problem and issues of the Gila watershed. With all of this in mind, I’m really looking forward to the next hitches and continuing our work with some extra, locally-sourced motivation and appreciation.